A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward
My office receives numerous complaints regarding unsolicited phone calls from telemarketers. I have fought to end this annoying practice for some time with a degree of success, but the battle continues.
Since enacted in 2001, the “Do Not Call” registry has become one of the most effective and popular consumer laws in New York State. In 2003, New York merged its registry with the national “Do Not Call” registry to provide even more protection. Since that time, several updates have been made to close loopholes and offer additional roadblocks to unwanted, unsolicited phone calls.
One of the most effective improvements came through the Do Not Call Improvement Act of 2007. Under that measure, any number placed on the registry remains on it permanently. Both home landlines and personal mobile phones are covered and more than 221 million phone numbers are on the national registry.
The “Do Not Call” law has proven effective in stopping unwanted calls, however, in some cases, telemarketers have found ways around the law. In order to help combat this problem, I continue to look for ways to strengthen our laws. A few years back the senate passed legislation that was signed into law, regulating all telemarketers who do business in New York and adds new consumer protections from unwelcome prerecorded calls.
Also, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved several updates to the registry, they include:
- Requiring telemarketers to obtain prior express written consent from them, including by electronic means such as a website form, before placing a robocall to a consumer;
- Eliminating the “established business relationship” exemption to the requirement that
telemarketing robocalls to residential wireline phones occur only with the prior express
consent from the consumer;
- Requiring telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive “opt-out” mechanism during
each robocall so that consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling;
- Strictly limiting the number of abandoned or “dead air” calls that telemarketers can make
within each calling campaign.Even with the continued effort to upgrade the “Do Not Call” law and improve its effectiveness, there are a few exceptions. You may still receive calls from:
- Organizations with which you have an existing business relationship;
- Charitable organizations;
- Religious corporations;
- Polling companies;
- Political parties and committees.
Signing-up for the “Do Not Call” registry is simple and free. To register by phone, call toll free 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you wish to register. You may also register online at www.donotcall.gov. Through the online form you can register up to three telephone numbers. You must have a valid e-mail address to take advantage of the on-line registration.
Once you register, your phone number will show up on the “Do Not Call” registry the next day. Telemarketers have up to 31 days to get your phone number and remove it from their call lists. If your number has been on the registry for at least 31 days and you receive a call from a telemarketer that you believe is covered under the law you can file a complaint.
As many of you know, signing up for the “Do Not Call” registry does not always silence every call. Illegal scammers attempting to commit fraud or find their way around the law keep bombarding us all with unwanted calls. I would urge you to report such calls immediately.
This year the state senate passed a bill to further crackdown on unwanted robocalls. The legislation (S.3297) would also require phone companies to provide consumers with free call blocking technology. The bill was not voted on by the state assembly, but I will continue to support it moving forward and hope for full approval next year.
If you receive unwanted calls you can file a complaint through the website, www.donotcall.gov. The New York Department of State, Division of Consumer Protection has some helpful information that can aid in filling out the complaint form. You can read more online at http://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/do_not_call/tips.html.